Last weekend my grampa was in a hospital with pneumonia, his blood pressure 70/30 and they were unable to get an IV needle in him. We talk every day, my aunt or my dad, and I, about whether it’s time to fly to Couer d’Alene (via Spokane) to say goodbye. The crisis seems to be averted for now. My grampa has had dementia for many years, and doesn’t know me when I see him.
I want to go with them, since there won’t be a funeral or memorial service, per Grampa’s wishes. He’s a WWII vet and has paid in advance to be cremated, and his ashes spread over the Pacific.
Glen Alfred Openshaw has lived till 93 despite many years of alcoholism and chain smoking. His first wife, my grandmother, put a bullet in her brain when my daddy was just 12. My dad was a crossing guard assigned by the school, and was standing in the crosswalk holding children back to safety with his arms when a neighborhood friend ran up to tell him his mother was being removed from the home by ambulance. My dad stayed another 20 minutes to finish his duties—this tells you about the kind of human being he is. Loyal, hard-working, duty-oriented.
I imagine, with the addictions he developed, my grampa was running from ghosts. However, he did kick both of those habits when I was young, and saved his fifth marriage and probably the last half of his life, in so doing.
Before we got the word about Grampa, I was in the stands watching Cade pitch another 11-1 game, so close to being another shut-out, against Orem High. My two youngest brothers were there, Spencer and Ben, whom I refer to as Spennie and Bennie. They are lifelong best friends. Spencer arrived with Dill Pickle flavored sunflower seeds, and we had this convo:
Me: Did you get those because it’s a baseball game and all baseball players spit seeds?
Spencer: No, I actually just had them in my car.
Me: Well, I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of them, but did you know that flavor is loaded with MSG?
Ben: We know! That’s why we buy them! In fact I am looking to buy some EXTRA MSG sunflower seeds. It is my favorite food, MSG is. [Both my brothers laughing and eating seeds.]
Me: Okay. Well. Informed decisions are good. Now you’re informed.
That same week, I had a convo with my friend Sam who is a golfer, basketball player, and 4.5 tennis player and coach, an R.N.—as well as a smoker. Not for the first time, I told him how much I wish he would quit.
Much like I begged my grampa to quit smoking, when I was a little girl, and flushed his cigarettes down the toilet—my grampa did quit and never smoked or drank again.
In response, Sam said, “Here’s the thing. Nobody loves their life more than I do mine. But I don’t want to be 70 years old! I want to die before then.”
I said, “Yeah, but remember when we were 20 and we thought 40 was old? We figured, who cares if we bake in the sun, or get drunk and eat junk food! We won’t care when we’re 40 because old people are just OLD and don’t care about anything.”
Sam laughs and says yes. “So,” I continue, “what if it’s the same way when we’re 70? We don’t know, because we’re not 70 yet. But what if you GET there and you really WANT to keep living—not only living, but living WELL, for another 30 years?”
“Why do you want to make that decision NOW when you might be just as in love with life, at 70?”
I love the way we rationalize our way out of the consequences of our decisions with silly logic.
There’s another problem with Sam’s logic: what if you DON’T die, but are just sick, and smell awful, and have a hacking cough and black lungs—emphysema or lung cancer for years and years? What if you don’t die until 70, but you wreck the life you could have been living in the meantime?
I love that my grampa has lived 93 years. I wouldn’t want the last 15 years of his life, for myself, though. I hope to keep my brain free of metals and junk, so I’m clear as a bell till the end.
I want to go out like a light switch, not on a dimmer bulb. I want that for my family and friends, all of you, too.